Edmonton theatre 'hits your heart and opens your mind'
10 years and $7.5M later the newly renovated Varscona Theatre in Old Strathcona is back with a bang
John Hudson remembers collapsing when it was all over.
"I went to Nova Scotia with my family and pretty much slept for three weeks," recalls the executive director of Edmonton's Varscona Theatre, reflecting on the theatre's successful fundraising campaign and a year's worth of renovations.
Hudson still cannot believe organizers managed to raise $7.5 million to finish a massive building renovation a decade in the making.
The latest production, by the local theatre troupe Teatro La Quindicina and on until Oct. 15, is called Witness To A Conga.
When that performance closes, the 25th season of Shadow Theatre will be launched.
"It's theatre that hits your heart and opens your mind, and I think that's what theatre should do every single time," said Hudson.
Edmonton is a theatre town
The Edmonton Arts Council estimates there are 18 professional theatre companies in the capital city. Dozens of community groups and many roving performers also perform as part of festivals like the Fringe.
During its 11-day run this August, the 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival broke records, selling almost 122,000 tickets. Nearly 850,000 people visited the famed Fringe grounds in Old Strathcona.
A cast of thousands
This year nearly 1,200 people volunteered during the Fringe taking tickets, handing out programs and picking up garbage.
Volunteers also helped support Walterdale Theatre for the last 58 years, admits Anne Marie Szucs, the theatre's artistic director.
She points to the community members who build sets, sew costumes and perform on stage, all for the love of the play.
"We are a place where people get together and create," said Szucs. "We pride ourselves on mentoring new, young artists."
In fact, the director for this season's first production Bethany Hughes is new to the craft so Szucs says been paired with a directing mentor.
After nearly 30 years in the theatre business, Szucs knows there's more and more competition for people's time and money.
But she knows the rush of being a part of a live audience can't be beat, even by the bells and whistles of technology.
"Theatre is alive — breathing — my Ipad is not."
And John Hudson believes live theatre the most fundamental art.
You can see more from the Theatre District on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV.